Along with millions of Americans, I have watched The Bible miniseries on the History Channel. As much as I’m enjoying the TV series, the book is way better.
Highlights from Part 2 included: the crumbling walls of Jericho, Samson doing major damage with a jawbone, Saul and David’s dysfunctional relationship, and Nathan calling out David.
I can’t stop thinking about the sad story of David, Bathsheba, Uriah and Nathan, especially that last scene when Nathan confronts David. Because of a faithful and fearless friend like Nathan, and a forgiving and gracious God, David repented and ended strong.
Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you."— Hebrews 13:5
Contentment lies not in what is mine but in whose I am. When I come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, I understand whose I am and what I have. Envy causes one to look horizontally--at what others have--so we are never satisfied. We pursue the god of money, thinking of what it can buy us. Contentment invites us to look vertically--at God. When we look in his direction, we know that he is enough.
Contentment is the secret of inward peace. It recalls the bare truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, including our money. Life, in fact, is a journey from one moment of vulnerability to another. So we should travel light and live simply. The reality for most people is that we have enough--whatever enough is. We would be well advised to be content with what we have.
Being content with less stuff and not envying those with a lot is a process that will take more than a quick prayer or reading a book or hearing a sermon. It will require a dependence and satisfaction in God. He knows what is best and what is needed in our lives. We must trust him and not money.
Too often we take our eyes off God and put them on earthly pursuits, with money most often at the top of our lists. Money has an incredible power, much like a magnet and more like a god than most of us are willing to admit, to draw us away from those things that are eternal and life-filling.
Always be on your guard with money. As the writer of Hebrews stated, "Don't love money." The heart can only love one thing at a time. When we choose to love God, we will discover the marvelous benefit of contentment. And, more importantly, we will learn that money can never satisfy the heart. Keep your focus, therefore, on God. He is enough.
He achieved All-American honors in football and was drafted into the NFL. He played for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers. But with success, Miles McPherson found himself trapped in drug abuse.
In 1984, Miles encountered the Lord Jesus and became a Christian. In 1986, after retiring from football, Miles went back to school and received a masters degree in divinity. Today he pastors Rock Church in San Diego.
I met Miles at a fellowship of Christian leaders recently in Dallas. While hanging out with him, I asked him what was the closest thing in his heart as a Christian in recent times. Here were his three thoughts:
As public policy continues to change on the issue, a LifeWay Research poll shows 58 percent of American adults agree it is a civil rights issue and 64 percent believe it is inevitable same-sex marriage will become legal throughout the United States.
LifeWay Research conducted a wide-ranging survey of American adults on questions surrounding same-sex marriage; specifically examining whether clergy, wedding photographers, rental halls, landlords and employers have the right to refuse access and services to same-sex couples, even if same-sex marriage is made legal in their state.
When considering who should be on the senior leadership team, many times we try to answer the wrong questions. Sometimes we ask, “What positions should be represented on the team?” In the church world, we may think the “Pastor” or “Director” title, or people with certain positions automatically qualify. That’s not always the case.
Sometimes we ask, “Who has been around for the longest?” Tenure does not necessarily equate with the profile of the person you want serving on this team. In fact, I’d argue that if you’re stuck and fresh perspective is one of your needs, you might want to consider including the newest person on the team.
Does God want us to hire a youth pastor? Should we mortgage the church to pay for a remodel? Should I run this new program?
These decisions can keep you up at night. Yet, by making two easy changes in the way you process decisions, you will dramatically increase the probability of success.
Ask Broader Questions When we face leadership choices, we tend to ask narrow questions. Studies show that closed-ended questions, which require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, do not help us make the best decision. You will reach a better decision with lasting results if you ask different questions. Take a step back and consider broader questions. Here are some examples:
People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.— Proverbs 10:9
Integrity is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Integrity is to personal character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. People of integrity are whole; their lives are put together. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books. They say to a watching world, "Go ahead and look. My behavior will match my beliefs. My walk will match my talk. My character will match my confession."
Integrity is not reputation--what others think of us. It is not success--what we have accomplished. Integrity embodies the sum total of our being and our actions. It originates in who we are as believers in Jesus Christ--accepted, valued, capable, and forgiven--but it expresses itself in the way we live and behave, no matter whether we are in church on Sunday or at work on Monday or in a lonely hotel room on Tuesday or suffering in a hospital bed on Thursday.
Unfortunately, integrity is in short supply and seems to be diminishing everyday. All too frequently our integrity is discarded upon the altar of fame or fortune. Sadly, what we want to achieve is more important than what we are to be. Integrity is lost when we focus on expedience more than excellence, on progress more than purity, on riches more than righteousness.
People are watching. They watch to see if our behavior matches our belief, if our walk matches our talk, and if our character matches our confession. In a word, they watch to see if we have integrity.
How secure is your walk? Others are watching.
In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change—often faster than any other way.
I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.
As long as people are allowed to dream—and the leader doesn’t have to control everything—when the team is introduced to new ideas, ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens ... quickly.
It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks, slight improvements, small adjustments ... those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.
Every church needs a plan to disciple its congregation. You need a plan to take people from “come and see” to “come and die”—which is where Jesus took His disciples during His earthly ministry. For most of the history of the church, that discipleship plan was simply called a catechism. It’s not a new idea.
It doesn’t have to based on our Purpose Driven plan. But you need a plan.
Just don’t do it all at once. Take it slow. I see new church planters make the mistake all time. Often, they visit a church like Saddleback, see what God is doing and want to apply everything to their own context immediately! That’s a disaster in the making.
I’ve consulted with several churches over the years, and one thing I’ve often said to church leaders is this: What if all your dreams come true?
What if your marketing worked? What if everyone did invite someone? What if you arrived one Sunday and you had doubled in size? Could you handle it?”
I ask this because rapid growth can sometimes cripple organizations and businesses. If you don’t have a solid foundation and infrastructure in place, you could crash and burn.
I’m dealing with this currently at my church. We’ve tripled in size in less than two years.
I’m up late at night thinking about things like adding a third service and developing more leaders. I’m urging my staff to invest in leaders and build their teams. I’m praying through who I, as the Campus Pastor, can invest in and what areas in our overall church need my attention and focus. I’m thinking through systems and strategy and processes.
In marriage counseling, it’s common to find spouses playing the part of attorneys—stating their case why the other spouse is to blame for the problems at hand.
A husband blames his wife for his neglect because she’s not physically affectionate enough. A wife blames her husband for her critical nature because he’s not emotionally intimate enough. As a counselor, it’s easy to slip into the role of a judge trying to decide who “wins.”
The wiser approach is to hold spouses responsible for their own actions and words. The apostle Paul clearly describes this principle of personal responsibility in Galatians 6:7-8, saying that a man (or woman) “reaps what he sows.” Consider the following steps to counseling couples away from the name-and-blame game and toward a “harvest” of a better marriage.
There was a time when I would have been jealous for leadership; today, I find it sobering. I have passed the point of aspiring to leadership. It is a privilege to be a leader, but the price is great.
A leader has to watch every word he or she says and quickly learns that you can’t go through life without a few critics, some well deserved. Occasionally, leaders have a rough time knowing who’s a genuine friend, and there are some serious time limitations on pursuing healthy relationships. There’s pressure on friends and family, and at times most leaders, I suspect, ask, “Who needs all this?”
On the other hand, everything I’ve been privileged to be a part of has been the result of a choice to respond to God’s call to leadership. So, I’m not whining about the pressure.
This blog was inspired by something Bishop Manny Carlos said about leadership development during our recent Every Nation Asia Leadership Team meeting.
Pastors and missionaries are leaders, or at least they are supposed to be. Some are good leaders. Others are not. Some have intentionally upgraded their leadership skills. Others have not.
It is one thing to be an effective minister; it is another thing entirely to be an effective leader.
A person who is an effective pastor or missionary will eventually attract a crowd that will become an organization that will require leadership skills. If we grow in ministry skills, but fail to develop leadership skills, we will create chaos and unwittingly destroy what we build.
Here are three leadership skills that pastors and ministers must develop and constantly upgrade:
On my recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, over dinner we were blessed to have a friendly waiter named Everest. It’s not very often that you meet a man named Everest; he is actually my first.
With a name like Everest, I was reminded of another man I met at the wedding I attended recently—his name is Gideon Lasco, a 26-year-old mountaineer who climbed Mt. Apo (highest peak in the Philippines) when he was 19.
It was obvious from his name that he had a Christian background. As it turns out, he is a pastor’s son. Gideon is also a prolific blogger in his highly visited site pinoymountaineer.com. My brief conversation with this young man was pretty insightful.
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.— Romans 12:2
Some years ago a magazine pictured a man staring out of a window; the caption read: "Why does this company pay this man $100,000 to look out a window?" The answer: Because the lifeblood of any organization lies in ideas and creative thinking. Thinking is powerful. Flying a plane, air conditioning, cell phones, vaccines, the World Wide Web--without thinking, these would have been impossible. Everything begins with a simple thought.
Ideas are a great moving force of history. We are never free to do what we cannot conceive. Having a godly mind enlarges our thinking capacity. A leader's thinking must be shaped by the following:
Vision: What is our dream? Carl Sandburg was right: "Nothing happens unless it is first a dream." Vision is a process of the mind--it's mental, not visual. Vision is seeing what everybody has seen but thinking what nobody has thought. What is needed to build a pyramid? One person who can think and ten thousand people who can grunt.
Values: What is important? Values have to do with how we treat people, how we do our work, what is vital to us. Values are the standards, the principles, and the code of conduct that characterize the organization. Values aren't dreamt; they already exist. Leaders shape and form the organization's values. Some universities decide to pour sidewalks after students have first worn a path. Where are the well-worn paths--the actions, the beliefs, the attitudes--that matter most to you? Those are your values.
Venture: What are we willing to risk? Organizations that make a difference are willing to think outside the box. For example, a company that was in the well-digging business began to think in terms of efficient and effective means of making holes, and they soon discovered that lasers dug holes better than augers. They achieved the same goal but accomplished it more efficiently.
Vehicle: What will get us there? How can we accomplish our desired outcome? A dream without a strategy is merely wishful thinking, but with a strategy it becomes powerful thinking.
Victory: What will the celebration be like? A leader thinks like a champion. The end result is to move forward, to accomplish goals, to be God's faithful servant, to celebrate being a part of God's kingdom.
Wake up and start thinking. Take off your nightcap and put on your thinking cap. Ask God to continually renew your mind.
You and I were made for a great adventure—it’s why we like movies. Movies have a story to them, an adventure to follow through. It’s also why we like shows like “Star Trek.” We want to “boldly go where no man has gone before."
That’s no accident. God made us to long for adventure—his adventure. God calls all believers to join him in a rescue mission, “to seek and save the lost” (see Luke 19:10) and complete the Great Commission.
Not only has God created us for this mission; he also wants us to go on the adventure together. God’s agent for completing his mission is the church. Churches start churches. The Bible says, “[God’s] intent was that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known …” (Eph. 3:10). God has chosen the church—not governments or businesses—to be his agent to complete the mission.
I’ve experienced failures. I’ve watched others fail. I’m guessing you’ve seen plenty as well. This morning I tried to think through some common reasons why failure happens. I’m looking forward to some healthy conversation on this one.
1.It’s not your passion. If it doesn’t make your heart beat fast or cause your mind to race when you’re trying to sleep, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.
2. You don’t have a plan. You need a vision, and you need to identify specific steps to make that vision become reality. That includes a financial plan. (I happen to believe you need direction from God on this.)
We recently had the “Bennett Boys” over while their parents David and Heather went out for a birthday dinner. We love those boys! Austin is 12, Hudson is 8 and Jackson is 7.
They are great kids. They’re smart, love Jesus, and are lots of fun! One thing they all have in common is energy. Lots of energy!
Our little dog Nacho is a play machine. He never tires of playing with anyone who will give him attention. Well, he met his match that evening. The boys wore that pup out! Nacho slept great that night!
I’m a high-energy and long-endurance guy, but when I see kids play I think, “Wow I’d love some of that energy!” Like the Energizer Bunny! (My favorite one… with Darth Vader!)
The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.— Proverbs 14:8
Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was thought eccentric because of how extensively he planned his plays in advance of each game. Most coaches would wait to see how the game unfolded, then respond with plays that seemed appropriate. Walsh wanted the game to respond to him. Walsh won several Super Bowls with his "eccentric" proactive approach. He was a coach who looked into the future.
Looking ahead is the process of creating the future before it happens. People who learn to do it "understand where they are going." Like Bill Walsh, it involves deciding your actions in advance so that your life will respond to you. What are the benefits of such a proactive pursuit?
Looking ahead gives direction. It's like using a highlighter on a roadmap to indicate where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. The highlighted roadmap not only provides information for where you are going; it also suggests where you are not going.
Looking ahead helps us to create rather than react. With each step along our journey, we are faced with a choice either to create or to react. Many people spend their entire days reacting. Like goalies in hockey, with pucks flying at us all day, we react. We react to news, cars in traffic, people, events, challenges, and obstacles. A better way involves making choices and following plans.
Looking ahead saves time. "One hour of planning saves three hours of execution." Planning yields a savings return. We only have twenty-four hours in a day and 365 days in a year. If we don't use them wisely by looking ahead, we will forever forfeit those gifts.
Looking ahead reduces crisis. Our daily lives have two controlling influences: plans and pressures. When we look ahead and choose to plan, we take charge and control of our days. If we fail to look ahead, we will spend our days in crisis mode. We will fall into a trap of panic planning--planning on the fly with no time to effectively map out a strategy.
Looking ahead maximizes energy. Failing to look ahead, we dissipate our energy on less important matters, improper agendas, and lost crusades. We waste our time on the trivial many. But preparation often energizes us!
Be wise. Look ahead. It's eccentric but well worth the effort.